August 19, 2016 -- Yesterday was a good day for working at the computers, and it was a good day for the plants on the balcony. (Tom wrote the study questions for an essay by Sonia Sotomayor, for the 9th edition of the Norton Sampler.) The drizzly rain was not so conducive for walking, but the evening weather radar looked promising. I had given too much credence to the weather radar, however; we’d gone out without an umbrella. We had to pause under awnings several times for several minutes on our long walk to dinner.
|Flowers in the Place du Commerce -- the park nearest to our apartment.|
No matter. We had plenty of time. And Tom grabbed a half-broken umbrella out of a waste bin. We used it for part of the way, then he pitched it into another bin when the rain stopped. (Yes, he did wash his hands as soon as he arrived at the restaurant!)
When we finally arrived at 68 rue Vasco de Gama, the restaurant had opened and we were warmly greeted by a properly professional and pleasant waiter.
This restaurant, Le Beurre Noisette, had been recommended to us by Abra, the daughter of an old friend and great Floridian who was from Chicago. Abra now lives with her family in Versailles, but she comes into Paris often enough to be able to make some great recommendations.
This restaurant is one of them – and I mean truly great. This was our best dinner of the summer so far.
|The quiet back dining room of Le Beurre Noisette.|
We’d dined there once before (see July 23, 2015). Once again, the restaurant filled up entirely with French speakers. We found that to be reassuring, after our visit to Le Florimond. At Le Beurre Noisette, we were far away from any tourist attraction. This time, we were seated in the back dining room, which is quieter than the front room. We had a pleasant little table near a window looking out at the “garden.” That’s what you get when you reserve well in advance!
For each of us, the dinner began with a savory, cheesy, delicious little homemade biscuit as a mis-en-bouche. Our usual order of a large bottle of sparkling water arrived as a bottle of water that had been carbonated on site – thus recycling the bottles. We appreciate this environmentally sound choice, and I must say that the water was especially good, with the finest of bubbles. (Sodastream bubbles are much coarser.)
For a starter course, we shared a slice of delicious country terrine – a marbré -- with layers of duck and sumptuous foie gras, accompanied by a sweet confiture. That came with a few slices of toasted bread, but I opted to use a piece of the bread from the basket instead: a very fresh, soft country bread with a thick, crunchy crust.
|The marbré, or terrine, made with foie gras and duck.|
We each ordered the confite of lamb shoulder roast, which arrived at the table in a copper casserole dish to be served family style. Tomatoes, onion, and garlic were roasted with the lamb, and the entire dish took comfort food to a new level. The soft, deep flavors melded and melted in our mouths – oh, so, so good!
There was too much of this main course, so Tom surreptitiously put much of it into a zippered food storage bag that he had stashed in the inner pocket of his jacket. It rests in the fridge now, waiting for lunch time.
Le Beurre Noisette is good value, at three courses for 36 euros (a euro costs $1.13 now). We had one 3-course menu, and then two dishes a la carte. And of course the 36 euros includes tax and tip. A glass of wine was 7 euros, and the large bottle of sparkling water was only 3 euros.
We would normally have ordered only one dessert to share, but there were two desserts that we wanted to try. So Tom ordered the baba au rhum served with St. James rhum agricole from Martinique, and I ordered the brioche perdue with apricot. This is one of the best baba’s we’ve had in Paris, and the pain perdu was as good as, and maybe better than, the one at O Fil Rouge. Heavenly.
|Tom serves himself some roasted lamb and veggies from the copper pot.|
What a dinner! Fortunately, the walk home was a long one – one that reminds us of just how huge the 15th arrondissement is. It is the largest in Paris, if you don’t count the Bois de Boulogne as part of the 16th.
The 15th is indisputably the largest arrondissement in terms of population. Once you’ve walked around the southern reaches of the 15th, where Le Beurre Noisette is located, or along the Petite Ceinture promenade, and you see all the large residential buildings built from the 1960s to the present, you understand where all those many people live.
Still, there is plenty of old-fashioned charm in these neighborhoods, too. We were taken by two townhomes next to a restaurant across from Le Beurre Noisette.
|The roasted lamb and veggies on the plate, with some creamy|
puréed potatoes that came as a side dish.
Single-family homes like this are rare in Paris, except for the occasional hameau, or little street like Villa Léandre on Montmartre, or the converted workshop that I showed you in this journal on August 17. (Hameau literally means hamlet, but in Paris, it is a little private lane – often gated – with small homes.)
One of these two townhomes obviously needs work; the other one looks like it has been completely renovated. Tom admired the hefty wood balcony railing on the renovated home; I thought it was a bit out of scale with the building. We both would love to see inside.
|Two townhomes across from 68 rue Vasco de Gama|
Our walk home was up the utterly familiar Avenue Félix Faure, a street graced by many well-tended Haussmannian apartment buildings. In the fading light, I could see easily into the elegant, lighted entryways for many of the buildings that we passed along the way. The damp, cool evening air was refreshing, and the sights and sounds of our neighborhood were welcoming.